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South Carolina

HELP Averts Foreclosure

Interest-free loans available to unemployed homeowners to cover mortgage until they find a job

Property owners must complete an application and provide documentation that includes proof that the mortgage delinquency is the result of a hardship beyond their control and that they live in the house full time. Although there is no income limit, assistance is limited to first mortgages with a maximum value of $729,750.

Funds are provided as interest-free loans, which are forgiven at a rate of 20 percent a year. If a homeowner remains in the house five years, the loan doesn't have to be repaid.

Many retirees living on a fixed income still have mortgages, said Barbara J. Robinson, executive director of the Catawba Area Agency on Aging in Rock Hill. "Any little hiccup in their life is going to put them on the edge."

Teresa Arnold, AARP South Carolina associate state director, said, "SC HELP is just a tremendous resource that can make a difference until they get back on their feet."

But SC HELP does not assist homeowners whose finances are merely overextended.

"Frequently we are unable to help because the borrowers don't have a hardship so much as a long-term affordability problem," said Clayton Ingram, communications director for the state Housing Finance and Development Authority, which operates the program. "High fuel, groceries and utilities are not qualifying hardships. … They are employed and could afford their mortgage except for the other expenses."

SC HELP is temporary. "We're not here to sustain people forever," said Rivers, the program's director.

For Symmons, SC HELP meant maintaining her independence. "Without this program, I would have lost my house."

To apply, go to SCMortgageHelp.com, or call 855-435-7472 toll-free.

Also of interest: New mortgage aid program. >>

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